sábado, 6 de julho de 2019

POST TOASTÉÉ - Take You Home Tonight (7'', FMS Records, 1983)


Though not a complete unknown for early NWOBHM aficionados, the only 7'' by East Anglia's Post Toastéé became a much more sought-after piece in later years, which means it's now quite more difficult (and expensive) to obtain a copy than it was a decade ago, for instance. It's an endeavor that only seasoned (and wealthy) collectors should really bother to engage into, though, as most of us will be well served with the mp3 files that are floating around online, and it's hard to justify such a significant investment in terms of musical merits alone - it does have one pretty nice song out of two, as I'm about to elaborate, but most of us simply won't be willing to pay three-figure prices for one song, you know. That being said, and despite the lack of useful info at present (if the band's name rings any bells, send us an e-mail, will you?), there are well enough things to be said in a individual review.

Released by the mysterious FMS Records (probably a self-financed release, you know) sometime in 1983, their sole claim to fame comes in an unassuming (though surely distinctive enough) cover with the band's logo and a few basic details about recording and personnel. "Take You Home Tonight" is the A-side, and it's pretty much a pop rock tune with disco leanings, most apparent in the harmonized vocals and drumwork. The keyboards use some typical Casio effects that really didn't stood well the test of time (not his fault really, just a case of hopelessly dated aesthetics) and the chorus is as radio-friendly as it gets, so it's easy to assume they didn't exactly have the heavy metal fraternity in mind while writing and recording this one. Hardly recommended for diehard metalheads, I'm afraid.

But not all is lost though, as flipside "Little Too Late" gets undeniably closer to the NWOBHM tastes, though it's more of a Uriah Heep-ish style of 70s hard rock rather than anything more contemporary. The keyboard/guitar interplay works nicely, with a very evident fondness for Deep Purple going on (not a surprise I guess, as the Post Toastéé name is probably taken from a solo effort from Tommy Bolin), and the simple-but-effective rhythm section carries the song along very efficiently. The singer's voice works quite well here too, with a nice chorus and all, and it's safe to assume that "Little Too Late" will be regarded as a very acceptable tune by most NWOBHM enthusiasts out there. Good stuff, and well enough to deserve a 3-star rating after all.

Post Toastéé seems to have been a brief episode in the lives of those involved, presumably being no longer active well before the second half of the 1980s. I have no idea if the Steve Underwood here mentioned is the same one who runs the punk/noise/minimal wave Harbinger Sound label, also acting as a producer / manager for a lot of bands roughly in the same music style; I wouldn't be too surprised if it turns out to be the case, though such a shift in music personality would perhaps come as a surprise for some. A certain Andy Bull seems to have had a minor level of involvement with a post-IQ outfit called Niadem's Ghost, as well as doing some engineering work here and there, but I'd like to have more conclusive evidence before building the bridge between this individual and the one playing bass for Post Toastéé. Keyboard player Michael Cocksedge is the only ex-member whose whereabouts I can conclusively decline right now, as he's playing bass guitar with a tribute band called The Pure Floyd Show.

Many thanks to Discogs for sleeve pictures!

Steve Underwood (V), Dave Kenton (G/V), Andy Bull (B/V), Michael Cocksedge (K), Chas Coles (D). Songs written and produced by Post Toastéé.

01. Take You Home Tonight
02. Little Too Late

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

quinta-feira, 4 de julho de 2019

PARADYNE (UK) - Down to Amsterdan (7'', Airship, 1982)


Once a truly elusive curiosity in the NWOBHM universe, Paradyne had become less of an obscurity in recent years - not that every single detail of their history had been made available, you see, but at least I'm able to tell a few interesting and/or meaningful things about them, which is always a good thing I guess. Hailing from the West Sussex of England (more specifically from the city of Chichester), the group seems to have gravitated together in the final part of the 1970s, and it seems to have been a somewhat successful live act in their geographical area, with some well-humored tales about their drum stage made out of bed frames and all that. How's that for DIY spirit, eh? Less-than-professional stage solutions aside, it's obvious that their collective abilities were more than respectable, and local Airship label didn't waste much time before offering the band the chance to lay down two tracks for a 7'' single, released sometime in 1982.

Both tracks here featured were written by mainman Mark White (V/G), and it seems he was helped by accomplices Paul White (G, a relative perhaps?), John Biddiscombe (B) and Gary Halls (D) during most of the band's lifespan, which most probably includes this recording session. I must say that Mark White isn't exactly the most proficient singer you'll ever hear in your life, but he had a fair bit of potential as a songwriter, and NWOBHM addicts will surely have a good enough return for their money - and hold no illusions, you'll hardly find this one in the bargain bin of your local record store.

"Down to Amsterdan", apparently the main focus of interest here, is you typical mid-paced NWOBHM ditty, that kind of tune that can't be disliked without a great deal of grumpiness, but still not strong enough to really stand out in the crowd. It's quite a long track too, and it could easily be 2 minutes shorter without losing anything too important in the process. The sedated instrumental section halfway through is a nice touch, though it goes along a little longer than it probably should. And Mr. White's voice reminds me of someone... Oh yeah, Ethel the Frog's Doug Sheppard that is! I'm glad I finally made the connection. Flipside "Take Your Time" is a bit more restrained than it could be perhaps, but with very substantial guitar work and a fairly intense solo. The song structure gets slightly surprising towards the end, and it's the exact twist it needed to keep the listener's attention all the way through. Not a classic by any stretch, but surely the better of the pair, and enjoyable enough to warrant a few careful listens from time to time.

Curiously, there are two variations for the single (no copies ever issued with a picture sleeve), with alternate white or red labels on the B-side, both presenting an illustration with the band's logo and a guitar neck breaking through a glass mirror or something. The red variation is way less common than the white one, but I don't think any of you should lose any sleep over this, as even the 'standard' version is quite rare and a truly good find for any dedicated collector. As for Paradyne, it seems the outfit didn't last for too long after making their vinyl debut, disbanding in 1983 or thereabouts. I'm not sure what happened really, though I suppose it's the typical case of a band that naturally ran its course rather than anything more tragic and/or sinister. If you happen to know more (or if you once had some role in Paradyne's fortunes, who knows), I would wholeheartedly enjoy getting in touch with you, as I really have fun listening to the music and I'm sure many readers would love to learn some extra facts about the band.

Million thanks to Discogs for label scans!

Mark White (V/G), Paul White (G), John Biddiscombe (B), Gary Halls (D). All music and lyrics by Mark White.

01. Down to Amsterdan 6:14
02. Take Your Time 6:01

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

sábado, 22 de junho de 2019

ANGEL WITCH (UK) - Sweet Danger (7''/EP, EMI, 1980)

RATING: ****

It's a near-undisputed fact that the music of Angel Witch brings in itself most of the defining features of the NWOBHM, being one of the fundamental introductions to any novice who wishes to understand what was going on in the UK back in the early 1980's. But there's also a lot to learn from the whole process that shaped this respectable British metal entity, I think, as it comes to show how NWOBHM was never a case of over-produced, tailored-for-the-market bands with the right looks and sound, but rather of youthful, passionate hopefuls that, by playing their hearts and souls out in whatever local haunt would have them, gathered a loyal following that soon became too large to be ignored. Starting sometime in 1977 under the name Lucifer, the quartet - the now legendary Kevin Heybourne (V/G) being originally assisted by Kevin Riddles (B), Dave Hogg (D) and second guitarist Rob Downing - soon adopted the more recognizable (and slightly less tongue-in-cheek) Angel Witch moniker, playing live tirelessly in and around London for the benefit of enthusiastic and ever-increasing audiences.

Those were the punk rock days in the UK back then, so it was no easy task to raise any eyebrows with an unashamedly heavy, considerably complex, riff-oriented brand of rock music. It simply wasn't the "right" thing to do if you were trying to make a break, you know. But Angel Witch were good, people would always be there to see them play, and like-minded groups like Praying Mantis, Samson and Iron Maiden were also packing pubs and clubs on a regular basis, all this giving some loud and clear indication that there was a niche of market being ignored by labels and promoters after all.

In fact, after recording a well-regarded demo halfway through 1978, things definitely looked promising for the lads. The echoes from that growing 'new metal' scene somehow reached the offices of none other than EMI, and those responsible wisely felt there was a bit of a mileage on all those long-haired kids playing metal after all. This led to the seminal "Metal for Muthas" compilation LP in early 1980 (soon to be properly reviewed around here), and with Angel Witch's contribution ("Baphomet") being easily one of the highlights of the LP, Heybourne and his cohorts were swiftly encouraged to make a live-in-the-studio appearance for BBC's "Friday Rock Show" (aired in March 14, 1980). The audience's response was remarkably positive (the fact that "Extermination Day" later made it into the "Metal Explosion" LP of session highlights is surely not a coincidence, you see), and it comes as no surprise to learn that EMI gave the thumbs-up for the assembling of a proper single.

Angel Witch's "Sweet Danger" was released in both 7'' and 12'', both presenting the baphomet visage that became a landmark image for the band and one of the most memorable artworks from the entire NWOBHM era. By the time the tracks were recorded, the group was already slimmed down to a trio, with Rob Downing packing his bags just when "Metal for Muthas" was hitting the shops. As we all know, Angel Witch soldiered on without a replacement, suffering little or no turbulence in the process.

It was a wise choice to give "Sweet Danger" pride of place, you know: it's a very catchy (but undeniably strong) number, whose more accessible leanings sound anything but forced and with arrangements that allow generous space for all musicians to show some of their individual skills. Angel Witch present themselves like a band that really means business, confident about their collective abilities and  prepared to take UK's heavy rock scene by storm, no less. It's a metal classic in all its glory, and I tend to think this version is slightly better than the one featured on the "Angel Witch" LP, so there are really no excuses: any serious NWOBHM collector must own a copy of this, whether in its original vinyl format or as any of the many re-releases it received through the years. It isn't that much of a challenge, you see.

Both "Flight Nineteen" and "Hades Paradise" (the bonus track for the 12'' vrs, mistakenly named as "Hadies Paradise" on the label) are perhaps not in the same league of the A-side, but both present merits well worthy of mention. "Flight Nineteen" is forceful and engaging, with a nice storytelling about some aeroplanes that disappeared without a place in the Bermuda Triangle. Nothing too sophisticated, that's for sure, but it works quite well in its intended purpose and most metalheads will have a pleasant time listening to this one. On the other hand, "Hades Paradise" is a more complex, slightly atmospheric number with many nice transitions and Kevin Heybourne's voice (not the most technical delivery ever heard in metal, but quite distinctive nonetheless) surely at its most confident and interesting. Truly good songwriting throughout, and "Sweet Danger" (the single/EP) is a very important piece of NWOBHM history that had a strong influence on much of what happened next.

The release was quite successful, to an extent that it actually made it into the mainstream charts - in fact, it reached position 75 (the lowest position to be mentioned in the music weeklies) then disappeared without a trace next week, but never mind. Despite its very good result in terms of sales, EMI didn't offer the trio a long-term deal, opting to bet their chips on Iron Maiden instead (and who can blame them?). Not a hard blow for Angel Witch anyway, as they kept a very busy touring schedule throughout 1980, including a prestigious appearance at that year's Reading Festival. It was the live environment that opened doors for Angel Witch in the first place, and it was also very important to keep record labels interested, with Bronze finally making a firm commitment towards the release of a debut LP.

Million thanks to Discogs for picture sleeve and label scans!

Kevin Heybourne (V/G), Kevin Riddles (B), Dave Hogg (D). All songs by Heybourne.

01. Sweet Danger
02. Hades Paradise (12'' bonus)
03. Flight Nineteen

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

sábado, 1 de junho de 2019

FULL MOON (UK) - Stand Up (7'', SRT, 1979)


Pretty much like any artistic movement you can possibly think of, NWOBHM didn't exactly come out of thin air, believe me. The notion that hard/heavy music got into hibernation sometime in the mid 1970s and suddenly re-emerged in 1979 with hundreds of youthful and enthusiastic British bands is a bit of a non-starter, though the doors were mostly closed indeed for new acts playing metal in the second half of that decade. Which is not to say every rocker in the country simply jumped into the punk rock bandwagon at the earliest opportunity, of course: many bands kept trying their luck with heavy rock, and many people were willing to attend the pubs and clubs to enjoy it. It's just that the labels and media turned their ears in a different direction for a while, something that surely didn't help matters for late-'70s bands unwilling to follow the trends, but that's life.

Not to be confused with the British-Metal-meets-Hawkwind band with the same name from the late '80s (a nice group BTW, you should really check them out), this particular Full Moon seems to have hailed from London or thereabouts, and were doing the rounds in the final years of the 1970s, without creating a significant buzz around themselves at any stage. I must admit I don't know much about the band's history prior to their only, privately-pressed vinyl legacy (1979's "Stand Up" B/W "Fly Away", that is) but, judging from the record's not remotely subtle front cover, they weren't exactly trying to spearhead the resurgence of metal music in the UK or anything like that. Similarly, I'd say that the quintet's moniker of choice wasn't about any celestial phenomenon at all, but rather a flippant mention to the undressed buttocks of an unidentified lady, not that the artwork would leave much room for any doubt.

Slightly tasteless picture sleeves aside, "Stand Up" brings some reasonably forceful guitar work in places, though the vocal lines are peculiarly closer to '70s pop rock music. The politically-motivated lyrics are pretty uncommon for pre-NWOBHM bands, and there's more than enough twists and turns going on (including a nice semi-martial instrumental interlude) to warrant a careful listen. Unfortunately, "Fly Away" is not in the same league of its pretty respectable predecessor, being a semi-ballad way closer to soft rock than anything more engaging and/or individualistic. This particular tune features the backing vocals of Debbie Boner more prominently (and oh yeah, her surname is Boner, I couldn't help but notice that), but her efforts are not enough to liven up this quite tepid offering (and it's not her fault really, as it was a hopeless cause from the start). Granted, there are far worse offerings from the period in question (some inexplicably well regarded among collectors, for no fathomable reason), but I'm afraid this particular flipside won't ever see much of the needle side in your turntable, if you know what I mean. Not a record worth selling your soul to the devil in order to obtain a copy, you see, but still an artifact of some interest for those willing to have a sizeable pre-NWOBHM collection, most of all due to the A-side. Most copies still in circulation are somewhat expensive, but I have learned of people who managed to find it in bargain bins around the London area not so long ago, so keep an eye out for it (not that you would miss its eye-catching cover, of course) if you happen to be around this particular area on a regular basis.

I have absolutely no idea whatever happened to Full Moon in the years after this release (and if you happen to know any detail, even the slightest, you're more than welcome to drop us a line), but I think it's safe to assume they didn't really survive into the 1980s, given that there's little to no mention to live outings or any further appearances at the height of the NWOBHM influx. Maybe it was a matter of bad timing really. Whatever the case, fact is that guitarist Gary Boner (yeah, his surname is Boner, how funny is that, right?) and bass player Bill Hobley kept plugging in with a blues rock outfit named Roadhouse (not to be confused with Pete Willis' post-Def Leppard project), a reasonably successful proposition that is pretty much active to this day. It's a strong indication that these guys were never that much into metal at all, but it's heartwarming to learn that at least some of them are still involved with the music scene.

Tony Trott (V/G), Debbie Boner (BV), Gary Boner (G), Bill Hobley (B), Steve Parsons (D).

01. Stand Up 3:56
02. Fly Away 4:14

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

domingo, 28 de abril de 2019

UFO (UK) - Live (LP, Decca, 1972)


Given that the early albums from UFO didn't exactly skyrocket to the top of English and American charts, the Beacon label wasn't exactly enthusiastic about offering the lads a contract extension, which meant the band were left with no firm financial backing for a while. The departure of original axeman Mick Bolton in the early days of 1972 was also something of a shock, and it's fair to say that the group's future was effectively in doubt by this juncture. As many bands do when faced with similar adversities, UFO kept plugging in regardless, bringing Larry Wallis in to perform guitar duties and playing as many gigs as possible wherever a venue would have them.

Despite the modest sales figures of their first two LPs, UFO had a strong following in some specific countries, most of all Japan - so it was only natural that Stateside (the label that distributed UFO's music for the Japanese market) opted to issue a live LP, taken from a concert at Hibiya Park in Tokyo on September 25, 1971. Originally released under the name "U.F.O. Landed Japan" shortly before Christmas 1971, the LP came to be known as the more straightforward "Live" once it was issued in Germany by Decca sometime in 1972 - a packaging that is surely the more recognizable version, being the template for countless reissues ever since. With that in mind, let's just call the album "Live" from now on to avoid any confusion, though acknowledging that it originally came out under a different guise.

It makes for an interesting listen nowadays, that's for sure, as it shows that the distinctive features one can hear in UFO's early studio offerings were also discernible (though in slightly different terms) when they were upon a stage back then. The instrumental sections are very prominent, the band as a whole being much more keen to jam and improvise than on later live recordings. To be frank, the mood around here is very much the mood of 1970s' live rock performances in general: expanding, exploring and rearranging songs rather than simply reproducing it more or less like the studio versions. And it's quite fascinating to hear UFO playing in such a jam-oriented style, especially when you consider that they would adopt a much more strict, no-nonsense approach for most of their live endeavors in years to come. Fortunately, the enthusiastic nature of the band's live delivery seems to have been a constant, being a much-welcomed feature in all of their concert releases through the years - and there are quite a few, you know, and they're all very good, you know.

Recorded while Mick Bolton was still in the band, most songs taken from that night's setlist are from UFO's first album - an understandable option, no doubt, as I suppose it would be hard to fully recapture all the oddball "UFO 2: Flying" ambiences upon a stage. Curiously, the best song from "Live" is the only one taken from their second studio effort: "Prince Kajuku" sounds extremely intense here, the natural extra energy of a live performance adding lots of heaviness to the whole thing - and man this riff kicks ass!  It's also the track that sounds closer to their "Strangers in the Night" period, so perhaps my special liking to it is not a mere coincidence.

Also worthy of mention is "Follow You Home" (they one they ripped off from The Kinks' "You Really Got Me", if you remember the review for "UFO 1"), where they show some pleasing sense of humor by including excerpts from... "You Really Got Me" from The Kinks! Maybe it was a way to acknowledge the coincidence, or else it was the whole idea all along; in any case, it was a spirited move, improving the otherwise unspectacular song with a lighter, playful (and very much welcome) atmosphere. There's even a song that never appeared on any other record from the band, before or ever since, a Paul Butterfield cover called "Loving Cup" - not a truly memorable rendition to be honest, but also far away from any sort of letdown. The sound quality is nice throughout, the band's musicianship is tight and, though some songs are a bit longer than they should ("Boogie for George" gets boring halfway through, for instance), "Live" fulfills its mission without any major hiccups, being a good album to have around if you're interested in UFO's formative years.

You see, finding a fitting substitute to Mick Bolton took UFO way more time than originally expected: Larry Wallis left the group after a mere eight months (he would later enjoy productive spells with Pink Fairies and Motörhead), being replaced by then-unknown Bernie Mardsen later in 1972. The guitarist took part in a European tour early next year and got as far as to record a handful of demos, but the Mogg-Way-Parker nucleus concluded Bernie (a future member of Babe Ruth and Whitesnake) wasn't really what the band needed, and made their way to Germany to recruit the youthful Michael Schenker (then a mere 18-years-old) from Scorpions in June 1973. Now under the auspices of Chrysalis Records, UFO was soon to become the entity we all know and love, but let's not rush things, right? See you in the next review, bye bye \m/

Phil Mogg (V), Mick Bolton (G), Pete Way (B), Andy Parker (D).

01. C'mon Everyody (Cochran, Capehart) 4:30
02. Who Do You Love (McDaniel) 9:39
03. Loving Cup (Butterfield) 5:22
04. Prince Kajuku / The Coming of Prince Kajuku (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 8:30
05. Boogie for George (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 11:42
06. Follow You Home (Way) 6:28

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

sábado, 27 de abril de 2019

UFO (UK) - UFO 2: Flying (LP, Beacon, 1971)


There are at least two different (and valid) points of view to be taken while reviewing this album. You can set your mind to what was the state of heavy music in the early 1970s, without taking into great consideration all that UFO was about to do in later years - a decision that will surely help you to appreciate what this album have to offer (maybe even getting as far as to consider it UFO's finest moment, as some people actually do, believe it or not). And you can listen to the music herein while comparing it to the classic albums with Michael Schenker performing guitar duties - and this very long record (the "One Hour Space Rock" warning on the cover isn't just a figure of speech, you know) will dwarf considerably, possibly sounding a lot more like an ill-fated piece of pretentious experimentation than anything else. Whether you decide to give "UFO 2: Flying" a fair chance or not, I guess it was natural for a band with such a name to make some flirting with space rock, and Pete Way (B), Phil Mogg (V), Andy Parker (D) and Mick Bolton (G) did not take the whole interstellar route halfheartedly, you see.

It's a reasonably widespread (and perfectly understandable) notion to consider the phase with Mick Bolton on the guitar as a unit, but I'd say it can cause the casual listener some sort of confusion, as this LP brings to the scene a very different musical entity from its predecessor, the bluesy/boogie proto-metal "UFO 1" (1970). This sophomore record is the kind of album that takes time: you can't just put it on as background music, you gotta give it some dedicated attention in order to fully appreciate it (or else you can be fully engaged on a LSD trip, which is going to be a entirely unrelated journey of course, but you know what I mean). Being partial with a fair bit of Hawkwind or Eloy in your spare time will surely be helpful, though ignoring everything else that was recorded by UFO before giving this one a spin may be a more challenging task for most first-time listeners. Personally speaking, I reckon you should really give this one a try in any case, as "UFO 2: Flying" is a mostly pleasant record after all.

For the diehard heavy rockers among you, "Silver Bird" and "Prince Kajuku" tend to be the more relatable tracks around here, as both showcase an interesting heavy edge - specially the latter, carried along by a memorable riff and that turned out to become a live favorite for many years to come. "Star Storm" and "Flying", on the other hand, are the ones where the "space" quality takes over "rock", with the group doing their utmost to create absorbing soundscapes via lengthy instrumental suites and the occasional use of sound effects and reverberations.

Sometimes it sounds loosely put together, to be honest (you have to be very much into it to fully appreciate "Star Storm"s ambiences midway through, for instance), and it's undoubtedly difficult to create an one-hour-plus musical adventure without any filler material in places. Almost all of the five tracks could be a few minutes shorter without losing anything substantial in the process, which is in itself a testimony of how we're nowhere near a world-beater with this one. Still, it works quite effectively most of the time, and I think it has a lot to do with the tight, busy instrumentation: where "UFO 1" sounded a bit too rough-edged and rudimentary for its own good, "UFO 2: Flying" is cohesive and solid, and most of its textures are the evident result of conscious effort, rather than hit-and-miss experimentation. It's all very spacey for sure, but the 'rock' element is always there as well; you can let yourself fly (ahem) with the music, but you'll always feel you're being taken somewhere rather than just randomly floating in zero gravity, or something.

It's puzzling to wonder what UFO would have become if Mick Bolton had stayed in the group - which wasn't going to be the case as we all know, as he opted to eject himself out of the group's starship in early 1972. Maybe we would be dealing with an experimental, sci-fi oriented progressive rock band rather than the hard/heavy monster we all know and love, who knows? Or else we would live in a world where UFO were little more than an early 1970s curiosity, with obsessive collectors falling over themselves to buy scarce original copies of a seldom-seen, never-reissued LP... Oh well, one can fantasize as much as wanted, but we live in a dimension where the nucleus of Mogg-Way-Parker felt there wasn't much of a future in the space rock niche, and gave up all hopes of traveling beyond the Solar System in order to adopt a more down-to-Earth, easily recognizable hard rock sound. I'm entirely convinced the change was all for the best but, judging on this sample, UFO would still be interesting if things were a bit different, I suppose.

Phil Mogg (V), Mick Bolton (G), Pete Way (B), Andy Parker (D).

All songs by Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton

01. Silver Bird 6:56
02. Star Storm 18:55
03. Prince Kajuku 4:01
04. The Coming of Prince Kajuku 3:57
05. Flying 26:29

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!



Saying that Ethel the Frog were a hot prospect for British metal in 1980 would be a bit of an overstatement perhaps, but it's fair to point out the undisputed fact that they would have never signed the dotted line with the mighty EMI if there wasn't any genuine potential going on. Doing the rounds since 1976 at least, this four-piece were seemingly huge fans of Monty Python ("Ethel the Frog" being the name of a fictitious BBC documentary mentioned on a classic sketch from the comedy group), but also the subject of a fair bit of adulation on their local Humberside area, having already released a introductory 7'' ("Eleanor Rigby" B/W "Whatever Happened to Love) in 1978 - a piece of wax that safely put them among the pioneering combos from the entire NWOBHM.

Doug Sheppard (V/G), Paul Tognola (G), Terry Hopkinson (B) and Paul Conyers (D) never shied away from the hard work necessary to make a band stand out in the crowd, and their efforts were finally rewarded when the now-legendary DJ Neal Kay recommended them for inclusion on the "Metal for Muthas" compilation. With their "Fight Back" number being regarded as one of the finest cuts from the LP, EMI felt there was enough mileage to justify the investment on a full LP. Curiously, no recording sessions were commissioned for such a purpose: after listening to their demo recordings the lads had under their possession, the executives involved felt the material had the standards required to be released in its original form, simply choosing the most capable tunes to comprise the eponymous LP.

Ethel the Frog's cover to "Eleanor Rigby" (yeah, that one) was seemingly identified as the selling point for the album, with the label getting as far as releasing a second single around it in 1980 (this time with "Fight Back" as the B-side). It's not groundbreaking stuff to be honest, being miles away from the ingenuity displayed by Jeddah when reworking the same song for their sole 7'' - easily my favorite version for a Beatles' song from the entire NWOBHM, incidentally (not that there ever was that much of a competition, but never mind). Still, I personally like this particular recording: it's a safe, mid-tempo-rocker version with very little to offer in terms of reinvention, but it sounds very heartfelt and not like a shameless cash-in at all, which makes for an interesting enough listen and a good way to open proceedings.

Despite not being strong enough to qualify as a classic NWOBHM record, Ethel the Frog's sole LP is mostly very good, you see. Light-hearted, upbeat tunes like "Apple of Your Eye" and "Fight Back" truly epitomize what NWOBHM was all about at the time, while less predictable, convoluted songs like "Bleeding Heart" (nice atmospheric parts in places) and most of all "Fire Bird" serve to show that the lads were more than capable to create some quite individualistic music when determined to do so. But my personal highlight would perhaps be "Whatever Happened to Love": the fast-paced riffing is very functional, the arrangements are actually pretty inventive for such a straight-to-the-point track, and it also presents a rare case of let's-turn-the-song's-title-into-a-chorus which actually works remarkably well, pleasantly sticking to your mind for days afterwards. Give it a listen and, in case you don't feel like listening it ever again, then I'm afraid NWOBHM isn't really your cup of tea.

The sound quality is respectable throughout (way better than one would expect from demo tapes, actually), but I'd say the compilers could have applied a slightly more strict quality control to this one, given that the early-period, still-developing nature of some songs is too clear to be ignored. "Staying on My Mind" (an ultra-predictable, almost yawn-inducing boogie that Status Quo would have churned out in their sleep) "Why Don't You Ask" (ditto) and "You Need Wheels" (a biker-friendly, anthemic tune that is not that bad, but would have surely benefited from a better chorus) are not in the same league of the better cuts, as simple as that. "Don't Do it" is as predictable as it gets (with a song title like that, it hardly comes as a surprise), and you can almost sing the chorus along without having ever listened to it (seriously) - but it's all very enthusiastic, admittedly, and I like the basslines on this one, so let's gallantly spare it from any harsh criticism.

Similarly, some of Doug Sheppard's singing performances are a bit substandard if you ask me, something that could surely have been corrected if EMI had ever bothered to offer the lads a proper recording budget. But let's not blow these shortcomings out of proportion: "Ethel the Frog" is a worthy addition to any respectable NWOBHM collection, and a recent LP/CD reissue by High Roller Records means you won't have to spend too much of your hard-earned money in order to obtain a copy.

As we all know by now, the band's association with such a powerful record company didn't make much of a difference, as Ethel the Frog had mostly ceased to exist by the time the original LP was out. Apparently, Doug Sheppard got increasingly disenchanted with the hardships of the road, a very significant development considering that he was also the band's producer and main songwriter - and this, added to bassist Terry Hopkinson's decision to quit the music scene and seek a degree, pretty much signaled the end of the line for the ensemble. With the band's activities reduced to a minimal, it's perfectly understandable that EMI decided to bet their chips on Angel Witch and Iron Maiden instead, making little (if any) effort to promote Ethel the Frog's release as a result. Paul Tognola and Paul Conyers would persevere in the scene though, soon joining the ranks of Salem - a band that have a fair number of releases to their credit, all sure to be reviewed around here in due course.

Doug Sheppard (V/G), Paul Tognola (G), Terry Hopkinson (B), Paul Conyers (D).

All songs by Sheppard, except 1 by Lennon/McCartney and 6 by Sheppard/Conyers/Tognola/Hopkinson

01. Eleanor Rigby
02. Apple of Your Eye
03. Staying on My Mind
04. You Need Wheels
05. Bleeding Heart
06. Fight Back
07. Don't Do It
08. Why Don't You Ask
09. Whatever Happened to Love
10. Fire Bird

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

quinta-feira, 18 de abril de 2019

UFO (UK) - UFO 1 (LP, Beacon, 1970)


UFO's quest for world domination starts with this humble LP from 1970, a low-budget album recorded in almost live-in-studio fashion and released by a medium-sized record label. But the roots of the story behind this huge (if not comercially ultra-successful) entity lie in a previous outfit called Hocus Pocus, formed in 1968 and already with the recognizable line-up of Phil Mogg (V), Mick Bolton (G), Pete Way (B) and Andy Parker (D). It was pretty much UFO under an early guise, you see, and it makes sense to add this period to UFO's timeline, as they would only adopt their alien-influenced household name after signing with Beacon Records in late 1969, as something of an homage to the London club where they played countless times and were finally spotted by the label's representatives.

Those were still formative years for heavy rock music as a whole, you see, and it's perfectly understandable that the music here feature isn't exactly analogous to the hard/heavy input that would earn them a living in later years. It's heavy enough already in a sense, but way more in a Blue Cheer approach of heaviness if you know what I mean, with many bluesy/boogie overtones and some distinct psychedelic influences. Therefore, one must have in mind that this is not archetypal UFO by any stretch: what you're going to get is proto-metal stuff, produced by a band willing to explore some then-recent musical recipes, but also a bit insecure about what ingredients they should or shouldn't add to the cauldron.

The basslines of Pete Way are in your face here, showing how hugely influenced by The Who's John Entwistle he is, which is not a bad thing at all, of course. Phil Mogg's voice would surely mature with time, but one can easily hear the promise in songs such as the ballad "(Come Away) Melinda", one of the finest moments IMO. Andy Parker and Mick Bolton do their job in a less spectacular manner perhaps (though Parker is the driving force behind the passable "Who Do You Love?"), but the band sounds tight and catchy most of the time. Still, the production values do very little to disguise the occasional rough edges of the performance, something that may surely be unpleasant if you're unwilling to take the context of the recording that much into consideration.

"Boogie for George" and Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody" would be successfull singles in the Japanese charts, and both are adequate, although a little bit too simplistic for my liking, if I'm to be point-blank honest here. Interestingly, the main riff of "Follow You Home" is a total rip-off from The Kinks' "You Really Got Me", in such a glaring fashion that I sincerely hope UFO were never sued for that! Some songs here featured are quite nice, with "Evil", "Shake it About", opening instrumental "Unindentified Flying Object" and the aforementioned "Melinda" being good examples. But listeners must be aware that most tracks are a bit too rudimentary (and with far too throwaway lyrics) for their own good, and I'm afraid nearly half of the compositions didn't exactly stand the test of time.

Despite its shortcomings, "UFO 1" made quite an impact in places like Germany and most of all Japan, prompting the group to tour the Land of the Rising Sun quite extensively from an early stage. This recognition was very important to secure them a continuing career, as the LP caused little to no reaction in its two high-profile targets, England and USA. It's not a record you should buy whatever the price, mind you, but it's a pretty decent record that surely reaches the 3-star mark, and it also works as a nice document from an era when heavy metal, as we all came to know and love, was still taking shape.

Phil Mogg (V), Mick Bolton (G), Pete Way (B), Andy Parker (D).

01. Unindentified Flying Object (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 2:19
02. Boogie for George (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 4:16
03. C'mon Everyody (Cochran, Capehart) 3:12
04. Shake it About (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 3:47
05. (Come Away) Melinda (Hellerman, Minkoff) 5:04
06. Timothy (Way, Mogg, Parker, Bolton) 3:28
07. Follow You Home (Way) 2:13
08. Treacle Peopel (Bolton) 3:23
09. Who Do You Love (McDaniel) 7:49
10. Evil (Way) 3:27

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

domingo, 10 de março de 2019

CENTURION (UK) - Two Wheels (7'', SRT, 1982)


Let me start this one with a digression, so I can take a few things off my chest before proceeding to the actual review, will you? I do have a point, I promise.

It's not that I have any kind of prejudice against biker rock and/or the people who happen to enjoy the motorcycle lifestyle, I swear to God. But I could never bring myself into enjoying most of the recordings laid down by bike-obsessed bands - I wouldn't say it's torture to my ears, mind you, but I often feel like skipping such songs soon after pushing the play button, as simple as that. And I suppose most of this personal dislike comes from the unimaginative instrumentation and distasteful (sometimes even plain offensive) lyrics churned out by countless groups of the ilk. Of course I can appreciate the fact that there are biker-inclined bands from the NWOBHM era (Vardis being an example) that do try to push the envelope a little in the songwriting side of things, but these are exceptions rather than the norm, I'm afraid. Considering that the NWOBHM (though being the cradle for dozens of really inventive and highly original bands) is in itself a somewhat repetitive musical entity when it comes to its most distinguishable elements, I just don't feel too compelled to listen to an even more restrictive sub-genre, and that explains why biker rock reviews were virtually nonexistent around here up to this point. I will try my best to bring some get-your-motor-running reviews in the future (as I really consider such releases to be an important and impossible-to-ignore part of the NWOBHM legacy) but be aware that I tend to be less than charitable with such slices of vinyl, and kindly take some of the more grumpy comments with a pinch of salt.

That all said, let's focus our attention to Centurion's sole 7'' single from 1982, a mid-priced collectable pretty much since the NWOBHM became a niche of the market in the latter half of the '90s. I'm no scholar in the band's history, but it transpires that Gaz Yorke (G) and Chris McRae (D) were the core members here, putting Centurion together in the early '80s. A number of other musicians from the Humberside area were recruited through the years, including a chap named Steve, who reportedly laid down the vocals for the band's sole slice of vinyl, but didn't stay around for long enough to have his surname recorded for posterity. It's a bit of a shame really, as I have the distinct feeling (already voiced by Malc McMillan in his mighty NWOBHM Encyclopedia) that he's easily one of the best singers of the entire biker rock/metal scene. According to Chris McRae himself, a guy who opted to call himself Uncle Albert (yeah, go figure) played guitar leads on the single, and bassist Jez O'Kane completed the line-up for the recordings, pressed on vinyl via the SRT facility sometime in 1982.

"Two Wheels", the main focus of attention here, starts with a revving engine, no less. I suppose there's no room for a doubt on what is coming next, right? Yeah, you've guessed it: pretty straightforward rock/metal about the pleasures of riding a bike, wear jeans and leather, drink lots of beer and listening to rock and roll. The song structure is immensely simple, but the upbeat tempo keeps the adrenaline flowing well enough, and the nice vocals really carry the track along quite nicely. Flipside "Bitch" is a slightly less inspiring track IMO - and I'll honestly try to ignore the somewhat misogynistic lyrics, as I know those were different times and people would seldom ponder about such things back then, so it would be unfair to weigh the guys down with such a burden. It's all quite basic once again, and the anthemic chorus sure commanded some singalongs in the band's regular haunts, but I feel the whole thing just repeats itself a lot more than it should, to the point that everything starts to sound a bit silly towards the end. Still, I guess those who enjoy like-minded NWOBHM contemporaries such as early Vardis, Shader, Eazie Rider and so on are very likely to have fun with this piece, so you better make sure to have Centurion in your wants list if you happen to fit this description. Incidentally, it seems Splattered! Records is about to issue a official re-pressing of this one in the USA, so buying a copy tends to become a much less expensive enterprise from now on.

It seems that Chris McRae assumed the mike stand after the single was out, keeping all drumming duties at first but soon requesting the frontman position for good. A cassette album named "Cold Daze" was also made available at some point, and it's surely a sophomore release with Chris McRae singing, though I don't know the exact year of release and never learned of anyone owning a copy, let alone listened to the thing myself. Maybe it will be made available in a metal forum or something in the future, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to happen, you know. Centurion seems to have bitten the dust for good in 1985 or thereabouts, with Chris joining a thrash metal band named Taryn (no official recordings, as far as I'm aware), while Gaz Yorke and Uncle Albert kept things going in the club circuit, mostly playing blues in local cover bands. I'm glad to say that Chris McRae is still around, recording songs on his own and with a page on Reverbnation that really deserves a visit. The persevering individuals who write and play music for decades for the sheer hell of it are those more deserving of encouragement if you ask me, so thumbs up to the man for doing his own thing, and thanks for all the music!

Thanks to Heavy Metal Rarities Forum for audio files and some very useful info for this review! Also thanks a lot to Discogs for the label pictures!

Steve ???? (V), Gaz Yorke (G), Uncle Albert (G), Jez O'Kane (B), Chris McRae (D).

01. Two Wheels
02. Bitch

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

sábado, 9 de março de 2019

Rupert Preaching at a Picnic (Compilation, UK, Naïve Records, 1981)


Short review:

Typical DIY local-band compilation from the early '80s, with many annoying no-hopers, a few minor promises and absolutely zero bona fide NWOBHM to be found. If you like metal, you're well advised to steer clear of it, as your hard-earned cash can be safely spent on far better purchases, believe me. Please kindly skip to the next review. Thank You.

Extended version (and it's going to be somewhat lenghty, so hold your breath):

The phenomenon of local-band compilations in the UK coincided with the advent of NWOBHM pretty much by chance: though there are dozens of such LPs with a fair proportion of long-haired hopefuls (some, such as "The Bridge Album" and "Offering of Isca", happening to be quite generous in the metal contingent featured), most had little or no interest in showcasing NWOBHM bands, being way more inclined towards including punk, indie, power pop, new romantic, minimal synth and whatever else the guys and girls were willing to try their luck with back then. As a consequence, many of such items will be of little (if any) interest for NWOBHM collectors - which is the case with the bizarrely-named "Rupert Preaching at a Picnic" (some sort of inside joke for the compilers, I'd wager), released by the fly-by-night Naïve Records in 1981. Still, I must admit I enjoy listening to records such as this - maybe because if helps to give context on what else was going on in the scene to a NWOBHM aficionado that wasn't there at the time, who knows. And it's also a sought-after album that is often sold for near-extortionate prices, so I think it's useful to drop a few lines about it so people can perhaps make a more informed choice before buying it.

It's a DIY record typical of those times, mind you. As it transpires, a few guys from Hertfordshire were in a band called The Frets, and, after borrowing a 8-track tape recorder from a friend, decided to record songs from whoever came to visit a certain basement in the space of a single weekend in early 1981. It must have been quite eventful, you see, and I'm sure everybody enjoyed themselves while it lasted, but you better be OK with rough edges if you're willing to give this one a spin: the production job is acceptable at best, the musicianship is virtually nonexistent in some cases, and many songs were registered in a one-take-no-dubs approach that is surely heartfelt, but tends to highlight the flaws rather than the merits, if you know what I mean.

As you can probably gather by now, there's nothing to really set pulses racing when it comes to NWOBHM around here. The strongest point of interest would undoubtedly be Oblivion II, whose "Storm" number brings some powerful guitars and interesting solos to the table. Still, it's not all-out metal by any stretch, though the musicians involved (whoever they were) seemingly spent a fair amount of time listening to a few NWOBHM bands at the time. To my ears, it sound like an unusually heavy new wave proposition, a bit like a more forceful (and less punkish) version of The Shattered Dreams, or perhaps a least accomplished version of Rough Cut, if you ever listened to "The Bridge Album" in the first place. Not really recommended for those who wear denim and leather before going out to buy a snack at the local convenience shop, but it's a decent tune if you ask me, and may be a interesting enough listen if you're OK with borderline material from time to time.

Given the DIY spirit that guided the entire project (c'mon, the artwork and credits are but paste-ons over a plain white sleeve), one will hardly be surprised to learn that "Rupert Preaching at a Picnic" is mostly a collection of fairly enthusiastic, but not-really-accomplished indie/punk/new wave music. The Frets, who actually got the whole thing together in the first place, opens proceedings with "Two Choices", a noisy punk track with out-of-key vocals, but also some enthusiastic guitar work to make the grade. It overstays its welcome a little, getting quite annoying towards the end, but I'd say it's charming enough to deserve a listen. In fact, the other minor highlights (such as Life Machine's new wave rocker "Life and Times" and Innocent Vicar's "She Was My Girl", a noisy bubble-gum punk that really sounds like a Ramones demo or something) deserve a mention not because they show impressive signs of promise, but rather for being reasonably listenable, which is already an achievement of sorts.

The Marine Girls are something of an underground cult band to this day (I'll get back to it later), and their "Hate the Girl" contribution have a charm all of its own, but you really have to be into indie music to fully appreciate the ultra-simple guitar-bass aesthetics and the riot-grrrl vocals on this one. Not bad (I enjoyed listening to it, actually), but surely not something any of us pathetic metalheads will ever hold in high regard. Similarly, Deranged have a mostly good thing going with their rough "Factory Girl" punk-rocker, though I'm not sure why they didn't record a second take, as they commit some aberrant mistakes and even lose track of each other in places. Or maybe it was actually the best take they could do and the compilers just had to go with it, who knows? But oh well, apart from the aforementioned Oblivion II contribution, the second most interesting tune around here (and perhaps the best composition overall) would have to be Köln's "Dope Prohibition", a pretty decent power pop number with good basslines and a not-remotely-obvious, stop-and-go chorus. Maybe these lads could have turned into something really interesting if given the proper time to mature.

Plugs' "Bat Brain Moon Man Boiler Boy" needed a more careful production job if you ask me, since the Clash-inspired horn arrangements are way too overwhelming and you can hardly listen to anything else. After somehow educate my mind to identify the guitar and bass behind the barrier of trumpets and bugles and whatever else is being played up front, I could attest a perfectly passable display of songwriting - but let's face it, few of us will ever be willing to make such an effort, so this one can hardly be listed as a highlight. The obvious limitations in equipment and budget also ruin Elusive Diplomats' "Twist and Run" (a somewhat atmospheric post-punk number marred by a truly irritating guitar tone) and Absentees' "Fairytales", this power pop attempt also suffering from a highly immature vocal delivery - after listening to the chorus for the first time, you'll be wishing the lads had somehow forgotten to repeat it so you wouldn't have to listen to it again, which is not the case, unfortunately.

Another glaring case of lacking musicianship comes with Frankie's Crew and their poppy-punkish "Something" number, with a singing lady that, despite owning a sweet voice, just didn't knew how to sing just yet - and she's also struggling with some of the least inspiring vocal lines ever laid down on tape, including a songtitle-turned-into-chorus of the poorest kind. Bona Dish's "Actress" is unexpected, if nothing else, but one will hardly be impressed by this avantgarde number, packed with unusual (and annoying) percussion and hippies-on-acid vocal melodies (and some screams too, for no tangible reason). We're getting closer to the finish line, and I must tell you it's not getting any better, so hold on there, because Amatory Mass comes forth with "Girl on the Corner" - and oh man for God's sake, tune the damn guitars properly! Not that the bass is exactly in tune, because it's not, but I guess you can get what I mean. The vocal lines seem to have been recorded by phone or something, and it only adds to the precariousness of the composition as a whole. But it's still sightly better than Eddy Steady Go's "Boy Named Sue", believe me. It's nothing but a goddamn speech (delivered in the best just-don't-give-a-damn accent possible) about a one-night-stand-gone-wrong or something, that just go on and on until it's abruptly over, near the 1:50 minute mark. Youthful beatnik-meets-punk poetry in all its glory, I guess.

And then comes Portion Control's "Preach", the final offering of the record. A false start. Then, some bossa-nova-tinged experimentation with synthetizers ensues, with Casio keyboards bringing some horrid-sounding melodies to the table while some voices make weird noises on the background, all with not a hint of harmony and no sense of purpose whatsoever. It finishes with a backmasked message of some sort, and oh yeah, I'm a pathetic enough person to bother to open the mp3 file on my Audacity and find out the reversed message actually says (sorry for the spoiler, but here it comes): "Rupert Preaching at a Picnic". Funny, eh? Actually, I'm compelled to share with you good reader my sincere impression that the file actually sounds better when played backwards (yeah, I did play the backmasking from end to end, don't ask me why), but let's leave it to that, right? (actually, I need to tell you people something else before dropping the subject: the false start was actually the final lines of the Eddy Steady Go "song" in reverse, and I only found out about it because I played the whole file backwards! Yeah, go figure, the world is really full of surprises and all that.)

You may be intrigued to discover (well, if you don't know it already) that the very same Portion Control that inflicts us such shambles is actually the most successful history here featured by far. After recording a lot of bedroom-made cassette tapes in the early part of the '80s, the duo became something of underground darlings in the British industrial/electropunk scene, always with a strong DIY spirit and bringing new music to the world up until the present day. The Marine Girls didn't really last for that long, seemingly going their separate ways in late 1983 or thereabouts, but still got as far as to record a few cassette albums in their prime. One of the ladies involved (Tracey Thorn, that is) is now a well-regarded artist in her own right, both with Everything But the Girl and her solo efforts. Minor successful stories come with Bona Dish, that later recorded two cassettes now regarded as ultra-collectables in the indie scene (oh well, maybe I'm missing something here); The Frets, who took part in a handful of similar compilations, sometimes under the name Clampdown; and The Innocent Vicars, with two 7'' singles released via No Brain Records even before this particular LP compilation was out.

Curiously, many of the acts appearing on "Rupert Preaching at a Picnic" are also featured (all with different songs) on a cassette-only compilation called "An Evening with Rupert", also issued in 1981. Given that it came out on In Phaze Records (the same label responsible for many Portion Control, Bona Dish and Marine Girls releases), I tend to think this tape was a later showcase, coming out a few months after "Rupert Preaching at a Picnic" (the only release in Naïve Records' catalogue, as far as I'm aware) and using a similar title as to create some sort of thematic connection. Against my theory, though, comes the fact that "An Evening with Rupert" presents a band called Oblivion, apparently the same individuals responsible for "Storm", but without the 'II' - an indication that the cassette actually came first, and Oblivion added the suffix in a later date to acknowledge line-up changes or something? We obviously need some further enlightenment here, so be more than welcome to drop us a line if you happen to know more and/or are able (and willing) to share audio files of this elusive local-band release.

Many thanks to Die or DIY blog for audio files! Also thanks to Discogs for picture sleeve scans!

01. THE FRETS - Two Choices
02. ELUSIVE DIPLOMATS - Twist and Run
03. BONA DISH - Actress
04. LIFE MACHINE - Life and Times
05. KÖLN - Dope Prohibition
06. OBLIVION II - Sword
07. THE ABSENTEES - Fairytales
08. INNOCENT VICARS - She Was My Girl
09. MARINE GIRLS - Hate the Girl
10. FRANKIE'S CREW - Somebody
11. DERANGED - Factory Girl
12. PLUGS - Bat Brain Moon Man Boiler Boy
13. AMATORY MASS - Girl on the Corner
14. EDDY STEADY GO - Boy Named Sue

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

quarta-feira, 6 de março de 2019

ROHAN (UK-Wales) - Mil O Fastiau (7'', Sain, 1984) plus Rohan (CD, Recordiau Arwen, 1996)


From the many mystery rock combos that adopted the Welsh-language lyrics in the early '80s, Rohan was perhaps one of the least mysterious, if you know what I mean. Though often associated with the NWOBHM fraternity, it was clear almost from the start that it wasn't really the case, this Bangor band being much more attuned to the prog rock revival that was going on in the UK pretty much at the same time. Their main discography was also well established from the start, and the band members are far from nonentities in the Welsh scene, so we always had a good enough deal of info to work with. Still, there's always new facts to be discovered, and it's fair to say we now have a far better knowledge about Rohan's history than we had, say, 10 years ago, with many details only recently being revealed.

In fact, it transpires that Rohan was something of a continuation from a '70s prog rock band named Children, with three of its members - namely Charlie Goodall (V/G), Bev Jones (B) and Dave Evans (K) - once taking part on this previous outfit. It seems Children never released any studio material under their original moniker (I couldn't find any reference to such sessions, at least), but it doesn't mean Mr. Goodall was a stranger to recording studios, as he was also a member of the well-regarded Pererin, one of the very first combos to build the bridge between Welsh folk music and electrical, rock-influenced instrumentation. I'm not 100% sure of the timeline here, but it's reasonable to presume that, after contributing to Pererin's "Haul Ar Y Eira" (1980) and "Teithgan" (1981), the talented musician just felt it was time to move on to pastures new, getting in touch with some old fellows from Children in order to form a new proposition. With Owen Hughes handling the drumsticks, and with the help of Fran Lock on rhythm guitar, Rohan was finally born, most probably sometime in 1982.

There are a few hints around about a very early apparition of Rohan in a cassette-only compilation named "Just When You Thought We Were Dead - Music from the Bangor Area" (1983), with a song called "Celtica". It's probably true, but I wasn't able to independently confirm it just yet, as this compilation seems truly difficult to locate (if you happen to have it, or are at least able to fill the blanks, you're more than welcome to get in touch). Whatever the story, it's safe to assume that the band's first fully official release was the "Mil O Fastiau / Rasus T.T." 7'', issued by the ever-dependable Recordiau Sain sometime in 1984.

Far from being a mere curiosity without much musical substance to it, Rohan is actually a very good band and, dare I say, quite original in places. There's nothing immensely inventive on "Mil o Fastiau", for instance, but the way this track seamlessly unite the typical keyboard-laden neo-prog ambiences with a straightforward, almost punk/new wave rhythm section is quite charming, and the vocal melody, albeit very simple, will stick to your mind for quite a while. The production is anything but heavy, and it's difficult to imagine any die-hard metalheads throwing shapes while giving this one a spin, but I for one like this tune quite a lot, and I strongly think it ranks among the best Welsh-language rock offerings of the period. "Rasus T.T.", the B side of this single, is not in the same league though: an instrumental cut that doesn't really go anywhere I'm afraid, being far from truly objectionable, but also instantly forgettable as soon as the turntable stops spinning.

Unfortunately, the whole Welsh-language rock/pop scene of the early '80s fizzled out in the second half of the decade, and most of those groups disbanded long before the decade was over. To Rohan, it was no different, and the once well-regarded band quietly drifted towards oblivion in the following years. Surprisingly, it wasn't the end of the story just yet: after a full decade of inactivity and seemingly out of the blue, the original trio of Goodall/Jones/Evans decided it was about time to give the old Rohan compositions a proper recording after all, and recruited much-traveled drummer Graham 'La' Land (formely with Rhiannon Tomos A'r Band, Omega, Louis A'r Rocyrs, Geraint Griffiths and so on) to complete the line-up. The four-piece soon laid down the tracks for an eponymous mini-album, released via Recordiau Arwen in 1996 and consistently kept available on a handful of online CD shops ever since. Actually, I'm not sure it ever received a proper pressing, as all copies to my knowledge are CD-Rs, most probably made on demand.

Everything starts with an expanded, slightly heavier (and better) version of "Mil o Fastiau", here augmented with a "Dau" - this word means "Two", so I guess it's the way they found to make clear it's a re-recording. The guitar arrangements are far more interesting too, with some very engaging solos going on. "Cymylau'n Hedfan" is another truly pleasant, complex number, with a somewhat contemplative mood that still allows space for some forceful arrangements in places, most of all in its dynamic solo section. "Wyt Ti'n Barod" is the closest to heavy metal we get around here, with noisy guitar arrangements and some definitely strong, atmospheric drumming. Still, the vocal lines are a bit too generic for its own good, leaving something to be desired and preventing this otherwise pretty cool song from being the mini-album's highlight.

Next comes "Atgofion", a typical neo-prog instrumental piece that won't win any prizes for originality, but keeps the flow of the record when heard as part of the CD's running order. Along with following number, "Lleislau'n Y Gwynt" it's the one most prominently carried along by the keyboards - and the latter also deserves a mention due to the fact it is the only number to ostensibly present something resembling a chorus, a feature Rohan seems to be peculiarly uncomfortable with, for God knows what reason. A good enough song, but "Brwydr Helm's Deep" is way better, easily the best instrumental track Rohan ever penned (yeah, no vocals on this one too). It's a highly interesting tune that starts with some movie-score-influenced, violin-like arrangements before launching into a atmospheric-yet-intense vibe that works very well if you ask me, closing proceedings in reasonably grandiose terms. All in all, a very good release, more than worthy of a careful listen from any heavy/rock enthusiast.

I'm not sure of how long Rohan kept things going with this particular incarnation, or if they actually performed any gigs to promote the release. But it wasn't a long-term commitment for any of those involved, by the looks of things, and Graham Land soon got back to his usual works as a producer/session musician, with a career that goes on to this day. Charlie Goodall also kept firmly involved with music, recording a couple albums with the Celtic rock band Coast and releasing (with the help of Danish female singer Therese Harris Buus Nielsen) a solo album named "Seascapes" in as late as 2015.

Dave Evans joined the reformed version of a late-'60s folk band named Y Cyffro, and also recorded a (reportedly fairly heavy) EP with an outfit named Niwed in 2002. I don't know exactly what Bev Jones was doing musically until recently, but I'm glad to say he teamed up again with former Rohan guitarist Fran Lock in a pop/rock studio project called Seventy Per Cent Water (I really liked the name BTW), that are consistently putting out some original compositions in download-friendly form. Incidentally, most of post-Rohan releases from the ex-members were issued by the same Recordiau Arwen, which tends to suggest 1) the venture was something created solely (or mostly) to spread their music to the world 2) the final disbanding of Rohan was most probably an amicable one, all musicians agreeing that the project had naturally run its course and keeping some sort of connection ever since. I really enjoyed the music anyway, lads, and if you ever decide to plug in again as Rohan in the future, please make sure to let us know, will you?

Many thanks to riptorn from Heavy Metal Rarities Forum for providing some invaluable info for this article! Also extra thanks to the Heavy Metal Rarities Forum for the picture sleeve images of the single!

Charlie Goodall (V/G), Francis 'Fran' Lock (G), Ben Jones (B), Dave Evans (K), Owen Hughes (D).

01. Mil O Fastiau 2:31
02. Rasus T.T. 2:51

Charlie Goodall (V/G), Ben Jones (B), Dave Evans (K), Graham 'La' Land (D).

01. Mil O Fastiau Dau 4:31
02. Cymylau'n Hedfan 6:06
03. Wyt Ti'n Barod 3:54
04. Atgofion 4:08
05. Lleislau'n Y Gwynt 4:39
06. Brwydr Helm's Deep 4:01

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

terça-feira, 5 de março de 2019


OK, time for a few changes around here.

The thing is, I have been feeling kinda separate from this blog for quite a while now. There are many reasons to this, that's for sure, but I guess the most important aspect is that I wasn't really happy with the shape Drequon's Playlist assumed as time went on. I originally meant it to be a place for NWOBHM, a near-lifelong obsession around here: not only a way to fulfill the intentions applied to a couple of blogs I attempted (but failed) to keep alive in the past, but also a vehicle to get in touch with like-minded individuals and people who were involved with the scene when it originally took place. A few years ago, I realized it turned into something else - something, quite honestly, not as funny as I originally envisioned. By allowing other genres and/or recent releases to appear on these pages, I turned the blog into something pretty generic, with nothing too distinctive on it - and this somewhat sad state of affairs surely reflects on the fact that hardly anyone come to visit it anymore. Not that it was ever crowded with visitors (it never really did), but there were readers once, and now they're mostly gone. Including myself. Why bother, if there was nothing really cool being published here anymore?

And it started ruining everything else, really. I could no longer bring myself into posting on forums. I got lazy with answering e-mails, and quite possibly offended a few people with my delayed responses (for which I wholeheartedly apologize). It got so bad I actually wouldn't even listen to NWOBHM as much as before - not because I didn't wanted to, but mostly because it felt like a frickin' waste of time.

I could just press the button and finish this blog's misery, I guess. But I decided to do the exact opposite. I will try to make it fun again - to myself, at the very least. Not that I really expect anyone to become a regular around here anymore (blogs are such a thing of the past, right?), but everybody needs a hobby, goddamn it, and I won't give up having fun with my gloriously amateurish, rough-edged, lyrically brain-dead, technically-lacking small-town wannabes so easy!

So, that's how it will be for now on: only NWOBHM-related reviews around here, with limited exceptions. I will sure post lots of '70s hard/heavy music around here, and I plan to include some neo-prog and '80s metal discographies as well, but these are going to be exceptions, as NWOBHM will be the rule in the foreseeable future. The non-NWOBHM reviews will often be posted somewhere else (Encyclopaedia Metallum, most of all, and also on Metal Observer, if they're still interested), but will hardly (if ever) appear on the blog. Most of previous non-NWOBHM reviews were deleted from the blog, never to be read again (in here, at least). A handful of interesting posts turned out to become temporarily unavailable in the process, but I hope to rework it in the not-so-distant future, with a good proportion of it being re-posted in due course. But, again, such posts will be hardly dominant on this space anymore. There are tons of NWOBHM-related stuff I want to review / write about in the coming months, and I'll focus on these inclusions, you can take my word for it.

I will honestly try to publish diverse NWOBHM content, as much as time constraints allow me to. The reviews (packed with as much history info as possible) will always be the main feature, but there are some interesting interviews I can make possible, given I actually put my mind into contacting the right guys (and a few ladies) involved, and I think some articles / thematic posts are a distinct possibility too. Audio files will be few and far between, but there are a handful of nice gems in my possession (some, I think, no one but the band members themselves ever listened to), and I may provide links to some selected material, once I get the thumbs-up from those who own the rights in the first place. Some mixtapes, perhaps? Let's see what happens.

I'm also trying to improve the blog's structure, with improvements on the "Index" page (now totally updated and with some browsing options); updated "Wants List" page; eliminating some hopelessly long posts that were too thick and unfriendly to be read from start to finish; and some other minor changes I'll be implementing in the following weeks. I'll let you good people know of further developments, if there are any.

Rock on \m/

sábado, 16 de fevereiro de 2019

HORSE LONDON (UK) - Horse London (Mini-LP, Wild West / Diesel Power, 1989)


I must admit I don't know much about the history of this London combo, at least not enough to write a comprehensive article about them. Still, it seems they started doing the rounds in the final months of 1987, featuring members from then recently-deceased (and now long forgotten) glam rock bands Aunt May and Cosmic Groover. A demo called "Screwed, Blued and Tattooed" was issued sometime the following year, and it seems the band were still using the slightly simpler name Horse by this juncture - soon augmented to the more recognizable Horse London, to differentiate themselves from a Scottish pop group that also happened to have a thing for ungulates, or something. They were obviously seen by many as a reasonably strong prospect at the time, and Chrysalis felt there was enough mileage to justify signing the lads to their Wild West imprint, which almost immediately led to some recording sessions (produced by much in-demand Guy Bidmead) and all concurrent preparations for a mini-LP.

Some reference sites name the record as "Diesel Power", but they are most certainly mistaken, as this was in fact the fantasy name created by the band to co-license the release. Despite the glam origins of their members, Horse London's eponymous release was firmly rooted on early 80's British Metal, even reminding some like-minded contemporaries such as Marshall Law and Panik Attak in places. But it's surely a slightly sleazier, more hard-rocking approach to the formula, keeping thing mostly very simple and even hinting of some punk influences here and there (the drum pattern right at the start of "Wheels in Motion" could easily be on a Ramones song, believe me). I'm sure they were listening to a lot of Mötley Crüe at the time! The voice of Gary Gene is perhaps the strongest link to glam rock around here, but I wouldn't say he sounds out of place at all, as the vocalist is more than capable to bring aggression and energy to the equation when needed.

Of the six songs here featured, my personal favorite would be "Screwed, Blued and Tattooed", with a pinch of Motörhead in the instrumentation and a let's-sing-the-name-of-the-song chorus that actually works quite well in this particular context. "Wheels in Motion" could have been a song from Silverwing / Pet Hate if they were trying to be a tad more metallic, and it's also good fun if you ask me, and "She Don't Care" presents a predictable, but very functional chorus, not to mention a pretty nice guitar solo. "How Do You Ride?", on the other hand, could have been a punk rock song if given a different arrangement, being perhaps a bit too basic and unpolished for its own good, I'm afraid. "Good Day to Die" reminds me a little of Russ Ballard's "Riding with the Angels" (no, I don't know where these comparisons are coming from), but the punkish chorus gives it a raw touch miles away from any radio-friendly heavy rock, and final track "Big City Blues" is a bit of a throwaway track to be honest, a second-rate attempt to blues-rock that doesn't rate that high on my Metalometer, but nevermind. All things considered, "Horse London" (the album) is a pretty decent record: not a contender to world domination perhaps, but its down-to-earth vibe is quite reassuring, and those partial to a bit of glam metal to go with the daily ration of NWOBHM are likely to give it a spin or two from time to time.

The record didn't exactly set the world on fire upon its release, but it's fair to say the response was mostly positive. Although the Wild West subsidiary was discontinued soon after the mini-album hit the shelves, Chrysalis seems to have considered keeping Horse London as part of their roster, and none other than the mighty MCA apparently followed the band's activities for a while. But times were changing and, as we all know by now, the alternative/grunge wave soon meant that everything remotely resembling old school metal had become a thing of the past. With no further contract offers coming their way, Horse London simply wasn't strong enough to survive the changing tide, and had bitten the dust for good in early 1991, at the very latest. I have no idea what happened to the musicians after this, though singer Gary Gene is said to have been involved with a short-lived venture called Righteous, alongside former Tank/Samson drummer Mark Brabbs. If you happen to have any enlightening information about Horse London's history and offshoot bands, you're more than welcome to get in touch!

Thanks a ton to Discogs for sleeve and label scans!

Gary Gene (V), Marc Perez (G), Damon Williams (B), Dave Hoyland (D).

01. Wheels in Motion
02. She Don't Care
03. How Do You Ride?
04. Screwed, Blued and Tattooed
05. Good Day to Die
06. Big City Blues

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!

sexta-feira, 15 de fevereiro de 2019

DIANNO (UK) - Dianno (LP, FM Records, 1984)


The final decision of firing Paul Dianno from Iron Maiden, made public in the latter half of 1981, surely saddened and shocked a great proportion of fans, though it was hardly an unexpected development, if truth be stated. The much-loved frontman was (and, in a sense, still is) notorious for enjoying the rock and roll lifestyle without many reservations, and his more sober-blooded bandmates would no doubt tolerate it, to an extent. But, when Dianno started missing shows due to his unhealthy habits, the warning signs were too glaring to be ignored. Being clear for all involved that Maiden was a strong contender for worldwide stardom, unprofessional behavior should be kept out of the picture at all costs, and so poor Dianno was swiftly shown the door (though the man himself had implied on numerous occasions that it was him who decided to jump ship). As we all know by heart, Bruce Dickinson got the gig, Iron Maiden got huge, and Paul Dianno, well… Let’s say he kept things going, surviving through all the ups and (mostly) downs and presenting some interesting (if not always enjoyable) music along the way.

Dianno’s first attempt to find fame and fortune on his own started to take shape in the early months of 1982, when the singer recruited nearly all members from a small London outfit named Minas Tirith, plus guitarists John Wiggins (from the local underground heroes Deep Machine) and PJ Ward to form a six-piece to take England by storm, or something. Initially acting under the name Lonewolf, it’s fair to say that Dianno’s new venture created quite a buzz around themselves at first, playing many well-attended gigs and receiving quite an encouraging response to their newly-penned compositions. Sometime in 1983, the armed-and-ready group adopted the more distinctive Dianno moniker for good – hardly a staggeringly-original choice for sure, but everyone were treating them as the Paul Dianno’s band anyway, so there you have it. It was roughly round the same time that the band started to write an all-new set of compositions, dropping the hard-hitting early material in favor of a remarkably melodic, more accessible style…

Mind you, the fact that most responses to the “Dianno” LP (released by FM Records in the early part of 1984) drifted from less-than-enthusiastic to sheer derision should hardly surprise anyone, given that it’s really nowhere near the intense, dynamic approach of Iron Maiden. In fact, the vocalist and his cohorts made a conscious move towards AOR waters, with prominent use of keyboards, multi-layered backing vocals, drums that echo all over the place and all that. It was a much-vilified album by the time of its release, and I can’t see it receiving any major rehabilitation anytime in the future: let’s face it, it’s all dated as hell, and there’s precisely zero innovative and/or adventurous music going on, so it’s not like we’ve been missing out on a record ahead of its time or anything.

That all said, I would like to point out that the LP is actually not that bad, you know. Once you manage to dismiss the fact that it’s bloody Paul Dianno from Iron Maiden who’s singing on it, it can easily pass out as a decent record from reasonably talented musicians, trying their luck with a formula that was getting a mostly positive response from the rock community at the time. By the time the band entered the studio, John Wiggins was no longer around, but both Ward and new axeman Lee Slater do a very good job with the solos (not that their music really needed two guitarists, but nevermind). The keys (performed by Mark Venables) serve to far more purpose than simply sugar-coating the tracks, and bassist Kevin Browne does a commendable job too, with some interesting appearances here and there. Paul Dianno himself will never be ranked among the most technically-gifted singers in metal, but it’s always nice to hear his highly distinctive voice in full power, and he managed to deliver the goods in pretty respectable fashion as well. OK, most of the lyrics are pretty brain-dead to be honest, but I guess anyone who ever listened to more than a dozen metal records in life is well aware that sophisticated poetry was never the genre’s forte, so just don’t dwell too much on it and you’ll be fine.

The album starts with “Flaming Heart”, a song that may become something of a guilty pleasure for many listeners: it’s all radio-friendly and silly, but it’s also a good deal of fun if you’re in a lighthearted mood. Next comes “Heartuser”, a bluesy tune that 80’s-era Whitesnake would not at all be ashamed to call their own, and following track “Here To Stay” is nothing too impressive, admittedly, but it has a nice instrumental interlude halfway through. Unfortunately, the nondescript “The Runner” paves the way for a number of unspectacular compositions (“Antigua”, “Bright Lights”, “Tales of the Unexpected” etc.) that add little to nothing to the album’s strengths. “Bright Lights”, in fact, even reminds me of none other than Gogmagog (not a personal favorite around here, you see), so all the dismissive never-took-any-of-these-songs-too-seriously talk from Paul Dianno should be taken with a pinch of salt if you ask me. Curiously, the LP regains some steam towards the end, with both “Road Rat” and “Lady Heartbreak” (two surviving songs from the Lonewolf days, incidentally) being very acceptable hard/heavy tunes with a fair bit of replay value.

Even with the tepid response to the LP, Dianno (the band) kept things going until at least the end of 1984, going as far as to recording (with much-traveled Frank Noon handling the drumsticks) a session for BBC’s “The Friday Rock Show” (broadcast on October 5th of that year) and even being captured for a live video (a mildly interesting watch if you’re as curious about NWOBHM as me, but don’t lose any sleep trying to locate a copy). They also released a Japan-only single, coupling “Flaming Heart” with a quite anodyne version to “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (yeah, that one), but you can easily live without it too unless you’re an obsessive completist. Despite their good efforts to regain momentum, Dianno were already fighting a losing battle by this stage, and mainman Paul Dianno decided to disband the whole venture in the early months of 1985. Few ever mourned the band’s passing, I’m afraid, but you can do far worse than buying a copy of this LP (it never received an official CD reissue, as far as I’m aware) if it’s offered at an inexpensive price. Some copies were issued in blue vinyl, and a fair number of sleeves have a sticker announcing the presence of an ex-Maiden stalwart on the record, but these variations should not justify any inflated numbers, as they're both not hard-to-find and/or particularly collectable.

Mark Venables and Kevin Browne would both have a stint with Airrace, but had little time to contribute to the band’s fortunes before it became history as well. The keyboardist now seems to enjoy a successful career as a journalist, while Browne kept a career in music with both engineering and the odd session work. There’s a certain Lee Slater playing guitar in Australia, and he also seems to have been doing the rounds in the UK in the past, but I would like to have more conclusive evidence before drawing any decisive connections here. As for Paul Dianno himself, he would soon be recruited by the infamous Jonathan King to briefly join the Gogmagog fiasco (already mentioned around here, and I’m not in the mood to revisit it for a second review, you see), but his fortunes would finally improve later in 1985 when Battlezone started to take shape. We’ll get to it eventually…

Very special thanks to Discogs for sleeve and label scans!

Paul Dianno (V), PJ Ward (G), Lee Slater (G), Kevin Browne (B), Mark Venables (K), Dave Irving (D).

01. Flaming Heart
02. Heartuser
03. Here to Stay
04. The Runner
05. Tales of the Unexpected
06. Razor Edge
07. Bright Lights
08. Lady Heartbreak
09. Antigua
10. Road Rat

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (drequon@gmail.com) and let me know!